On “Frinkenstein’s Monster”

The newest The Simpsons season oscillates between solid and horrible, and I say this as someone who likes some of the newer episodes. I’m not a “Golden Age only” hater who refuses to recognize the show has moments outside of that era. I do think that if anything, the bad episodes of the modern era are great ways to openly see writing issues and discuss them – because most of them are glaring. The most recent episode, “Frinkenstein’s Monster”, is one of the ones where you kind of wonder what show runners and story editors do, because it feels like someone was asleep at the wheel.

The only real plot is that Homer gets an interview offer for a job at the Shelbyville Nuclear Power Plant, which is now under Finnish control, (no mention of Aristotle Amadopolis for whatever reason) so we get jokes about Finnish people being relaxed.

Professor Frink offers to help Homer through the interview because he was friendly, and as a result, Homer gets the job instead of Dr. Lori Spivak (Amanda Seyfried) who then gets hired as his assistant. Spivak is notably an actual doctor with good degrees in nuclear physics who honestly should have the job.

Homer then bullies Frink into continuing to guide him through his job, and Spivak digs into Home’s history and eventually finds out about Frink, who then feels bad for helping Homer, and Spivak threatens Homer into quitting.

Homer still is resistant until Spivak tells Marge, and then after Homer confesses, he skis backwards down the mountain, gets hurt, and then returns to work at Springfield, the end.

And there are scenes like Marge being happy that Homer is making more money since now she can relax (because this was a “the family is poor” episode) and Lisa puts out a song about her complicated relationship with her dad and his various jobs – which is a recurring bit that doesn’t serve a purpose – which is kind of the other major issue.

We opened the episode with a flashback where Homer when he was the third most important person at the nuclear power plant and then go to the present day with no explanation of WHY he lost his drive or motivation. And this is after an opening moment where the episode declares this is the only canonical episode (or something along those lines)., which is boldly messing with history again – which seems like it could be a joke, but the delivery is so poor that you can’t be certain.

And part of the episode’s crux is that Homer has done a lot of jobs – like we see the list again and again. The Nuclear Power Plant wants to interview Homer because of his resume where he’s had lots of jobs, Smithers specifically has a form created for when Homer quits and then inevitably returns to the power plant, Lisa flashes back to the jobs Homer has done in the past where she felt proud of him. And it amounts to nothing. It reminds you of better episodes that you could watch – and some of those post callback episodes are stinkers, but they are still better than this. I’m assuming. There’s still like 8 years where I’ve only seen the Christmas and Halloween episodes. Eventually we will reach them on D’ohMance Dawn.

I also wanna be fair here – Homer getting a job because of his past could be great. What if he was a consultant whose experiences let him Slumdog Millionaire into actual problem solutions, but then he gets worried he can’t find new solutions to problems that might come up? Like I’d watch that episode. There you have a hook – does he look for ways to see new dangers like fortune telling? Does he decide to put himself in danger so he can see what might happen? Does he try to pre-empt any danger that might happen and realize he can’t do that? But we aren’t discussing what could be, only what is and that’s part of the problem.

We never see how Homer is at his job at the new nuclear power plant. It’s like if we never got the moments in “You Only Move Twice” where Homer is actually competent and well liked at his job and knows what he is doing. Instead, he has a job, he gets more money, and knows he’s relying on other people but he never has a point where we see he’s good, or even that Dr. Spivak is doing everything for him or that Frink is doing everything. It isn’t a well built conflict. They try to frame this around Homer being suspicious to Spivak but we don’t see her doing the job or complaining that things are left undone. And what their job actually is, is relatively unclear? Like what is their day to day situation?

And even the Frink relationship lacks development because it doesn’t really develop. Frink wants human interaction but never develops that need. He just complains about having to help Homer and then feels guilty. But he never tries to fix the situation, he just stops helping and then a parrot and Spivak take over – but none of that escalates. At the end, the crux is Spivak telling Marge and Homer finally feels bad about what he did. Frink has no victory, doesn’t get to write off helping people.

We have a “Homer’s Enemy” situation, but Spivak is underdeveloped and she is ultimately right. Like Frank Grimes was right that Homer is a danger, but his sin is that he is playing against the nature of the universe, and the fact that everyone else accepts the situation is part of the humor of that episode – and it earns the dark ending. “Frinkenstein’s Monster” doesn’t earn the ending, and maybe it is appropriate that it lacks an ending.

Based on the ski setting at the end of the film, I expected a Downhill/Force Majeure ending where Homer would cause some sort of disaster to get out of the situation but he didn’t. Homer just ignores, avoids, or browbeats things until Marge tells him to stop and confess. There is no climax, there’s just rising action before the end of the episode, and a feeling that this was underbaked, before Homer gets his old job back like he has done hundreds of times before.